Story by Shelley R. Clapper
At the Warwick Valley Central School District Board of Education meeting held on Thurs., Apr. 20, Superintendent Dr. David Leach presented the sixth and final budget presentation for the 2017-17 academic year.
“The goal in developing this budget proposal was to enhance learning opportunities for students while staying within the tax cap threshold,” said Dr. Leach. “We have maintained responsible class size while staying within the tax cap.”
Dr. Leach said that the proposed budget for 2017-18 calls for a spending increase of $1.9 million, or 2.17 percent. Warwick residents will vote on Tues., May 16 on the proposed budget of $90.1 million, along with electing three board members, approving a proposition to purchase school buses, and a proposal to establish two capital reserve funds. The three board members whose terms are expiring are Robert Howe, Dory Masefield, and Erin Maxcy.
Cost of Healthcare Challenges Budget
Dr. Leach said that the majority of the budget is comprised of salaries and benefits and that the rising cost of health premiums has been a challenge to the budget process. The cost of healthcare around the nation is growing exponentially.
“When we started the process, we heard healthcare could rise 25 percent,” Dr. Leach said. He explained that by using measures such as a health consortium, the use of generic drugs, and increasing copays, they were able to keep the increase down closer to 17 percent.
Reduction to Budget
Dr. Leach indicated that the district has saved about $1,000,000 through teacher retirements and attrition. Ten teachers are expected to retire. The reduction of the number of bus routes from 68 to 65 will also result in budget savings. Another source of savings will come from the refinancing of the Albert Wisner Library Debt.
Increase in State Aid & Non-Tax Revenue
Dr. Leach said, “Since the last meeting we have received more state aid which is helpful. Nonetheless, it has been a challenging budget.”
The District has received an additional approximately $500,000 more in state aid. Dr. Leach spoke of other non-tax sources of revenue which amount to $3.2 million, derived from tuition paying students and the rental of school buildings.
After the presentation, the Board voted to approve the 2017-18 proposed budget.
Average Tax Cap Increases in Last Ten Years
Dr. Leach showed the historical trend in the tax increase over the past ten years. “We continue to trend below two percent over the past ten years,” he said. The trend over the past five years has been an average increase of one percent and over the past ten years an average increase of two percent. The tax cap for 2017-18 will be a 1.8 percent increase.
Board member Ken Parsons asked about the expected kindergarten enrollment for 2017-18. Dr. Leach responded that the District expects 225 kindergarten students to be enrolled. This number was up 10-15 students from the previous year. Each kindergarten class will not contain more than 21 students each.
Memorial Day Holiday Extended
Dr. Leach announced that a revision to the school calendar has been made to include Fri., May 26 as a day off for students and staff, extending the Memorial Day holiday from Fri., May 26 through Mon., May 29.
Odyssey of the Mind Teams Head to World Finals
Dr. Leach congratulated the two Odyssey of the Mind teams from Sanfordville Elementary School and the Warwick Middle School. The teams were among the seven local winning teams at the recent state tournament in Binghamton. The teams will compete at the World Finals at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI in May.
Best Community for Music Education
Dr. Leach announced that Warwick had been named as a Best Community for Music Education for a fifth consecutive year. He said that Warwick was one of 527 State school districts to receive the 2017 NAMM Foundation award.
“With this prestigious accolade from a non-profit foundation, Warwick demonstrates its commitment to innovative learning opportunities for all children, and recognizes that music and the arts are critical components of academic success,” said Dr. Leach.
2017 NYS Comptroller’s Student Achievement Award
Dr. Leach congratulated six high school students from Warwick who received the 2017 New York State Comptroller’s Achievement Award. This award is presented each year to a student who has excelled academically and has also shown leadership potential by volunteering his or her time to serve the community or school. Dr. Leach announced that the 2017 winners were Molly Little, Thomas Nafash, Chelsea Fox, Brogan Dineen, Jennie Prial and Jason Nafash.
Fifth Annual Career Fair
The fifth annual Career Fair took place at the high school on Thurs., Apr. 6. Professionals from 31 local organizations spoke with students about careers in business, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), communications, the food industry, skilled trades, and health and human services. Dr. Leach reported that the fair went very well and he thanked the sponsors: WFEL (Warwick Foundation for Excellence in Learning), the Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce, ShopRite of Warwick, Leo Kaytes Ford and Dr. Episcopio.
Park Ave Performing Arts Moment
During the Performing Arts Moment, the board was treated to musical performances by two Park Avenue Elementary students. Principal Sandra Wood introduced Andy Chen, an ESL student from China, who delighted the audience by playing “Star Light Night” on the piano. Principal Wood then introduced Madison Lejoi, a multi-talented musician and fashionista. Madison gave an equally delightful performance as she sang “Back Again” from the “Trolls” movie while she strummed along on her ukelele.
The next meeting of the Warwick School Board will be held on Mon., May 8 at 7 p.m. at the Dorothy C. Wilson Education Center, located at 225 West St. Ext. in Warwick. This will be a public hearing on the proposed budget.